China's ambassador to the Netherlands has lauded the arrival of two pandas, and says it will boost bilateral ties. Meanwhile the country has gone panda-crazy with widespread enthusiasm for the Asian bears.
Two giant pandas touched down at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport Wednesday - aboard a passenger plane operated by Dutch national carrier KLM - for the start of a 15 year stay in The Netherlands.
A giant television screen and scores of journalists were on hand to record the arrival of Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud) and her male companion Xing Ya (Elegant star), after their 5,000 mile (8,000 km) journey that took more than 10 hours.
The TV monitor showed the pandas being lowered onto the ground, surrounded by Dutch border police. Subsequently they were put on display for more than 100 journalists and guests craning to get a glimpse of the bears in their specialized cages that include see-through plexiglass.
Speaking in Dutch, China's ambassador to The Netherlands Wu Ken told the crowd he was delighted so many people are interested in the Asian bear.
"I'm so happy so many friends have come to welcome my two new colleagues," Wu said.
"This is a huge step in bilateral relations between China and The Netherlands," he said.
The pandas were to travel by truck to the Ouwehands Dierenpark zoo in Rhenen, about 55 miles (85 km) southwest of Amsterdam.
Dutch swoon for China's Panda
They are to be quarantined for several weeks before being introduced to the public at a still-to-be-determined date.
The bears' residence in the Dutch zoo over the next 15 years is part of the park's Asian exhibition.
The zoo built a special enclosure for the two pandas at a cost of around 7 million euros ($7.4 million), Dutch media reported Wednesday. And it'll spend another $1 million a year to maintain the new enclosure.
The pandas' new accommodations include separate indoor and outdoor spaces, night accommodation, a nursery, a cold store for their bamboo food supply, a special veterinary clinic and an area for their full-time keepers, the Ouwehands zoo said in a statement.
"A warm welcome awaits them, which will naturally be in an entirely panda-themed manner," the zoo added.
Negotiations to bring the pandas to Holland limped along for 16 years but was clinched during a state visit to China by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in October 2015, according to the zoo.
Meanwhile, panda mania has gripped country,with Dutch newspapers devoting pages of space to the bears' arrival and the hashtags #Pandas #pandakoorts (panda fever) trending on the Dutch Twitter feeds.
The last time there were pandas in The Netherlands was in 1987, when two giant pandas were on show at a Dutch safari park for four months.
bik/rc (AFP, AP)